Last Updated on February 17, 2019
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to awaken in the morning like the actors often portrayed in coffee commercials? Picture it, the gentle glow of sunrise slowly illuminating your bedroom while the welcoming sounds of morning gradually fill your ears… It may sound too good to be true but with devices like the Withings Aura, it's now possible. In this Withings Aura review, we'll dive into the ins and outs of this best-selling sleep monitoring system to see how well it stacks up.
Ease of Use
Summary: The Withings Aura is a powerful sleep monitoring system with many benefits. First, it helps to induce sleep and stimulate wakefulness using a combination of dimming/brightening light and the lowering/raising of sounds. Second, it notes any environmental changes that could be affecting your sleep, including light, sound, and temperature. Third, it effectively tracks your sleeping patterns for later analysis. And fourth, it can wake you up at the optimal time based on your sleep cycle. In each of these areas, the Withings Aura excels. The device should serve you well so long as you can get past the somewhat tricky setup.
In-Home vs. Wearable Devices
As we all move toward taking greater control of our health and well-being, so too are fitness and sleep monitoring devices continuing to advance and evolve (source). Whereas complex tools and techniques to conduct sleep studies were once the only way to track our sleeping habits, we can now use in-home and wearable devices to self-monitor our sleep environment (source).
In-home devices are often designed to remain within the sleeping space and provide data only during sleep. Some of these devices also provide extra features that can further enhance the sleep experience, such as the use of light and sound.
Wearable devices are often available as an integrated health tracking system that includes information such as daily activity levels and estimates of basal metabolic rate (BMR). The data output for both device types usually sync to a mobile device such as a smartphone.
Putting the Power in Your Hands
Although early sleep monitors tracked only body movement to estimate sleep and wakefulness, modern devices have significantly improved methods of tracking sleep cycles. Thanks to these gadgets, we can now adjust our sleeping space and work with our healthcare providers to gain early and on-going improvements in our quality of sleep.
Rather than only relying on healthcare professionals to provide medications or potentially time-consuming or invasive treatments, we all now have the potential to identify and even correct sleep-related problems.
These can be as simple as detecting the wrong ambient temperature for ideal sleep or discovering information that could lead a healthcare professional to treat various conditions such as restless leg syndrome or excessive nighttime awakenings (source).
Considering these recent advancements, the question is no longer about whether we should use these self-monitoring sleep devices, but how. For some sleepers, wearable trackers with integrated sleep monitoring prove useful. For others, advanced devices that focus solely on sleep, such as the Withings Aura, are preferable.
Sleep-only monitors can be particularly appealing when they include features that bring real-time improvements in sleep quality, something which sets Withings Aura apart from its competitors.
1. Hastens Sleep/Promotes Wakefulness
The Withings Aura provides gentle transitions between sleeping and wakefulness using a combination of light and sound. This feature functions with or without the optional under-mattress sensor strip used to monitor your sleeping patterns.
2. Provides a Range of Useful Sleep Metrics
Unlike some sleep trackers, the Withings Aura offers myriad sleep data for analysis, including:
- How long it takes to fall asleep
- The amount of time dedicated to each phase of the sleep cycle
- The amount of time actually spent sleeping in bed
- Monitoring of heart, respiratory rate, snoring and body movement
- Changes to the sleeping environment in terms of light, sound and temperature
While the device isn't intended to diagnose specific health problems, collected data such as nighttime snoring, heart rate and respiratory rate can be particularly useful for healthcare providers to better understand your overall health status as well as specific sleep-related concerns.
3. Helps Create the Perfect Sleep Environment
Light and sound outputs automatically adjust to adapt to the levels measured in the sleep environment. As a result, the Withings Aura blends into any sleep space while helping to keep potentially disruptive noise and light pollution from disturbing your sleep. It also tracks changes to room temperature that could compromise sleep quality.
4. All-Encompassing App
Settings are managed via a Withings Aura app that connects to a variety of Android and iOS devices, which does the following:
- Lets you choose your wake-up time as well as your sound preferences, which can either be one of Aura's integrated sounds or from a multitude of online sources such as Spotify.
- Displays information about the amount of ambient noise and light in the sleep environment.
- Displays sleep data when connected to the under-mattress sleep monitoring device.
Data outputs on sleep cycles and other nighttime measurements sync to your mobile device automatically and are presented in simple, easy-to-use graphs and charts.
5. Intuitive Touch-Interface Bedside Lamp
After confirming the app settings, all other functions can be performed on the bedside device itself using a combination of swipe and tap motions, including adjustments to the lamp settings and initiating/ending the sleep and wake programs. These easy hand motions make turning the alarm off in the morning a key component to the "gentle wake" experience. (You can also set unique alarm times for napping as well as for each day of the week).
6. Non-Sleep Related Benefits
Aside from being an effective sleep monitoring system, the Withings Aura has other benefits to speak of:
- Light settings can be adjusted to be bright enough to use as a reading lamp and dim enough to create calming mood lighting.
- Soothing sounds can be a good substitute for a white noise machine.
7. Stylish Design Makes a Bold Statement
The bedside lamp is also appealing in and of itself. First, it has a modern, streamlined look with a discreet, integrated clock display. Second, it uses a touch interface instead of older-style buttons and switches (tap, swipe, or long touch on the top or sides of the device control the light and alarm).
Detailed Withings Aura Review
Quality – 4.5/5
Initially introduced by a start-up company interested in supporting the "connected health revolution" through human-centered design, the Withings Aura was eventually purchased by Nokia in mid-2017 only after a few years on the market. Undoubtedly, the product's high-quality and innovative design is what attracted the tech giant to take on the Aura as its own.
Perhaps most impressive about the Withings Aura is its thorough and accurate statistical data, something which many other sleep trackers lack. But not only does the device provide reliable information for analysis, it also does a great job at lulling you to sleep and waking you up with its subtle light and sound options.
The Withings Aura is backed by a one year warranty but you probably won't need to use it as it doesn't have a track record of failure or malfunctioning. That said, the device may be somewhat difficult to set-up and connect for a non-techie but their customer service team is excellent at resolving issues.
Our only gripe in terms of quality is the occasionally slow transmission of sleep data, but it's not a big concern.
Ease of Use – 4/5
The Withings Aura isn't the easiest of sleep trackers to properly set up (not by a long shot) but once you've done it, using it becomes a breeze. It just takes a while to become accustomed to the touch interface before the bedside unit becomes a natural part of your sleep space.
Moreover, ever since Nokia acquired the Aura, the availability of customer support as well as enhanced instructions on setup and use have simplified the whole process. Case in point, the Nokia website now includes step-by-step setup illustrations and videos, which help resolve most prior concerns and confusion. At this stage, all that's left to update is the printed version of the user manual.
One drawback of the Withings Aura in terms of usability has to do with the positioning of the bedside unit in the sleep space. If you sleep in a large bed, you may find the sleep sensor's four-foot cable too short to position at chest level while keeping the device in the correct position. But this doesn't pose a problem for most people.
Once sleep data gets recorded, it's easily transmitted to your desktop computer or smartphone through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for you to analyze your sleeping habits.
Features – 5/5
The Withings Aura consists of a bedside lamp, sensor pad and sleep tracking app. Let's discuss how each of these components work together...
A night of sleep with the Withings Aura begins with a simulated sunset. Simply tapping the top of the bedside device turns the sleep program on, which immediately starts to emit subtle shades of red light designed to stimulate the production of melatonin — the body's natural sleep-inducing hormone.
The sleep program also includes a choice of sounds available on the device itself or through various online music sources such as Spotify. But if you prefer the light-only option, you simply turn the volume down to zero when setting up the sleep program in the app.
Throughout the night, the Aura captures changes to temperature, light and sound in your sleep space to help create optimal sleep conditions. And when connected to the sleep sensor, the Aura starts to capture personal data on your heart rate, respiratory rate and sleep cycles (i.e., time it takes to fall asleep, time spent sleeping in each sleep stage, body movement, etc.)
In the morning, a stimulating blue light sunrise designed to inhibit melatonin production emits from the device, causing you to awaken more gently as a result. The effect can be further enhanced by pairing the sunrise lighting with your selected sounds or music.
The alarm can either be set to "progressive" or "smart wake up" mode. The progressive program gradually initiates the wake-up light and sound sequence over a period of 20 minutes before your set alarm time. In contrast, the smart wake up picks the perfect wake up time for you based on your personal sleep cycle.
The Bottom Line...
It's clear that a lot of thought went into the design of the Withings Aura for each stage of use: helping to lull you to sleep, monitoring your sleeping patterns and waking you up gently the following morning. If there's any missing feature to speak of, it's the inability to better tailor the light and sound features. For example, there's no option to manually set a constant sound, sound levels are only determined via automatic controls. Still, by no means is this a deal-breaker.
Price – 4.5/5
Although it functions as an alarm clock, the Withings Aura offers so much more and thus should only be compared to other sleep accessories and monitoring systems. In the category of stand-alone sleep tracking systems, it has a mid-range price but with more useful features than devices with comparable or higher prices.
Ever since Nokia acquired the Withings Aura, the device's quality-price balance is now more evident than ever, thanks to better setup information and customer support. Thus, the Withings Aura is now more capable of delivering on its promises: a wide-range of personalized features to enhance and track your sleep experience. To most users, these benefits are priceless.
How Does It Compare?
Misfit Shine 2
The Misfit Shine 2 is a sleek, disc-shaped wearable fitness and sleep tracker designed for continuous wear and use. Worn in a watch-style band or clip-on holder, the device uses a subtle LED light display to indicate goal progression and notifications.
As a basic aid, the Shine 2 does an adequate job but it's no match for the level of analysis offered by the Withings Aura.
Arguably the closest competitor to the Withings Aura, Beddit 3 is another solid example of a stand-alone, in-home sleep tracker. It works by capturing and sending comprehensive sleep data directly to an app on an iOS or Android device.
Unlike the Aura, Beddit 3's ultra-thin sensor strip rests on top of the mattress and under the sheet to collect sleep data. The device can also track up to two people in the same bed, making the tracker unique in this regard.
Up3 by Jawbone
Another example of a fashionable, bracelet-style fitness and sleep tracker, the Up3 by Jawbone is available in nine separate colors.
Like the Misfit Shine 2, the sleep data provided by the Up3 isn't as comprehensive as stand-alone trackers like the Withings Aura and Beddit. But if you just want the essentials, plus basic stats on daily activities like calorie intake and the number of steps walked, this device may suit your needs.
EarlySense Live is an under-the-mattress sleep monitor that delivers real-time alerts to family members for various health conditions, including fevers and prolonged gaps in breathing. Thus, while appropriate for any sleeper, EarlySense Live is particularly useful for children and the elderly.
Sleep data can also be easily shared with healthcare providers and other caregivers.
What Is the Right Sleep Monitoring System for You?
To choose a sleep tracker that best serves your needs, you first have to decide whether you want a device that just tracks sleep data or one that offers additional health and wellness features. For the former, the Beddit 3 may be your best bet. For the latter, the Withings Aura may be the smarter choice. All things considered, our top pick goes to the Withings Aura.
Keep in mind, however, that both the Beddit 3 and Withings Aura are stand-alone, in-home devices, which are intended to stay in one room. In contrast, wearable devices like the Misfit Shine 2 and Up3 by Jawbone provide you with all-day monitoring to track sleeping patterns as well as daily activities like exercise. Of these, the Misfit Shine 2 is the best choice.
While the EarlySense Live is also an effective sleep tracker, it's best used for those with special health conditions as mentioned earlier.
The Withings Aura is a sleek, well-constructed sleep monitoring system that offers unparalleled sleep data tracking plus real-time sleep environment modifications. Ideally designed for any sleeper who recognizes the effects of light and sound on the transitions between sleep and wakefulness, the Withings Aura is a welcome addition to any sleep space.
Now Over to You!
What are your thoughts about the Withings Aura? Leave your comments below!